Fine-Tune Your Executive Presence

Culture matters

Your credibility as a leader, regardless of gender distinctions, has its roots in the culture of the country you’re working in, as much as it does in the culture of your workplace itself. In countries like the UK and the US, for example, rising leaders are expected to be more authoritative, while in Asia, a more reserved style is expected.

In short, your words and behavior as a leader are interpreted based on your listener’s cultural orientation.

Not understanding the cultural norms and expectations around leadership presence and communication style in a global environment has high costs. It makes your team building efforts challenging at best, and at its worst, can cost you your job.

Master the “pivot”

“Pivoting” among stakeholders is a core competency of global executives, according to an HBR study of leaders and rising talent in 11 global markets. The data shows that for both men and women credibility comes from adapting one’s style to local norms of “executive presence.”

For example, HBR author Erin Meyer illustrates  how managers in different parts of the world give feedback in drastically different ways:

The Chinese manager learns never to criticize a colleague openly or in front of others, while the Dutch manager learns always to be honest and to give the message straight. Americans are trained to wrap positive messages around negative ones, while the French are trained to criticize passionately and provide positive feedback sparingly.

If you’re a woman, you need to pay even more attention

While pivoting is an essential leadership skill for both men and women, research shows that women have more to master. They have to understand and adapt to not only cultural norms, but also the gender nuances of these norms – the differences in how men and women leaders are expected to behave — within the same culture.

HBR authors Hewlett and Rashid explain with this example,

When it comes to delivering a compelling message, women in emerging markets are expected to guide rather than direct listeners to a conclusion – the reverse of what is expected of men.

In Japan, 61% of respondents in a study say women should guide listeners. It’s even higher in China, where 78% say women shouldn’t be direct in stating their conclusion.

Use a coaching approach

Teaching our client leaders with multicultural teams a coaching mindset and coaching skills is the fastest way of gauging what’s behind and underneath the words they’re hearing. In our blog posts on giving feedback and receiving feedback, for example, you’ll find our best tips for practicing this to help you assess both how well your message is landing and your understanding of what you’re hearing.

But don’t stop at feedback conversations. Bringing a coaching mindset and skillset to any and every relationship interaction will increase your executive presence, influence, and leadership effectiveness. It’s the best and most reliable methodology we know that can help you lead better across cultures. It enables you to transcend differences in cultural norms as well as their gender nuances. Stay tuned for more blog posts from us on more coaching essentials for leaders!